|PBA business student Toma Sakurai (far left, back row) visits with women in India who assisted him with his research for the Rinker School of Business this summer.|
The plight of impoverished women in India has troubled Palm Beach Atlantic University international business student Toma Sakurai ever since he heard about their situation during a chapel service last year.
The guest speakers that day were Rev. Vasantharaj Albert and his wife, Mano, founders of the Church Growth Association of India. They also spoke about Mission to Women, the women’s arm of CGAI.
The couple also has partnered with PBA’s Rinker School of Business in creating income-generating projects for the women of India’s slums.
After hearing their presentation in PBA’s DeSantis Family Chapel, Sakurai talked with the couple, who encouraged him to assist them with their work.
Sakurai said he hesitated at first, but later he spoke to his parents about it during a trip home during the Christmas holiday to his native Japan.
“I told them how I was interested in going to India for an internship,” he said. “They were so supportive, so I decided to go to India this summer.”
After meeting with Kim Kerr, director of Partners International Women, Sakurai was able to complete an eight-week internship in the Chennai area of India that involved conducting research about micro enterprises there.
Through micro enterprises, women can escape poverty and be built up both personally and spiritually, said Kerr, whose organization is a ministry partner of CGAI.
The research Sakurai did is the Rinker School’s second study in Chennai on self-help groups, which lend money to poor women. The first study took place five years ago and involved conducting on-site interviews, said Dr. Ann Langlois, associate professor of business.
Dr. Langlois said she is applying for a research grant to present the findings of the two studies. Sakurai’s research in India was partly financed through a recent partnership between the Rinker School of Business and the International Polo Club in Wellington, Dr. Langlois said.
Although he has traveled to other countries — including a Rinker School academic trip to the United Arab Emirates earlier in the summer — this was Sakurai’s first time in India.
“Everywhere I went, people stared at me and sometimes they even followed me because they had never seen foreigners,” he said.
Sakurai, who will be a senior in the fall, said he gained valuable experience from his research that he believes will be helpful as he contemplates graduate school next year. “Having a chance to work on a research project and possibly present this project at a conference is not something that all students have an opportunity to do,” he said.